Take Back the Night: a long day full of hurting and healing

Sarah Warner

Members of the Colby community marched down to Main Street before “Take Back the Night” narratives on Miller steps

This past Saturday, the Colby Feminist Alliance hosted its annual “Take Back the Night” event supporting survivors of sexual assault and harassment on Mayflower Hill. The night focused on the countless stories shared by survivors, many originating from events on campus.

“Take Back the Night is one of the most important events on this campus,” Iliana Eber `20, one of the events coordinators, explained in an interview with the Echo. “It provides a space for vulnerability, bravery, anger, and hope in a way that is incredibly necessary and powerful.” Though the narratives told by survivors were difficult for those sharing as well as for others attending the event, the night also marked a time of healing and support.

The event began with a march. Purple-clad students walked with a sense of purpose from Colby’s campus all the way to Main Street, holding signs scrawled with slogans like “Colby Supports survivors” and “My body, my rules.” As they chanted, the echoes of “Stop the violence! No more silence!” spread out over the neighborhoods of Waterville, helping to create a distinct sense of community. The marchers were united, determined to share their stories and enact change. Many Waterville residents supported the march as it passed them by, waving and cheering students on; others simply looked on with confusion.

This spirit of support and love carried on into the night, when many Colby survivors of sexual assault stood on Miller steps and shared their stories with the community. The lawn was crowded, with students from across grades and groups sitting on the grass or pavement quietly listening to the narratives.

“The lived experience of survivors cannot be ignored. We need to face the realities of our community, and the number of speakers at Take Back the Night is a glaring example of why,” Eber said.

Of the narratives of sexual assault told, all were incredibly impactful. Yet, despite what the community members who spoke Saturday have had to endure, the overarching theme of the survivors’ narratives was one of love and hope. Many of them assured other survivors out there — whether they spoke that night or weren’t ready to yet — that things would get better and that they were love.

Hearing these narratives was emotionally draining for many in the crowd. The event lasted over three hours, during which time not a word was uttered in the somber crowd. However, as much as listening to these stories was difficult, it was also necessary. Each year, this event is a step towards the healing and empowerment of sexual assault survivors, giving them a supportive space to discuss their traumas. It also sheds a light on the epidemic of sexual violence on Colby’s campus and beyond, hopefully pushing students to take a more active role in helping to combat the culture that has made sexual assault so common on-campus.